Of the millions of bacteria living in the human
body, most are harmless, including those
rendered harmless by the immune system. Some,
however, are actually good for the body. These
are called probiotics. The World Health
Organization defines probiotics as, "Live
microorganisms which, when administered in
adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the
Bifidobacterium animalis is one such probiotic.
Bifidobacterium lives in the large intestines of
most mammals, including humans, and is essential
for healthy digestion. Bifidobacteria help
maintain the body's digestive balance in
several ways. In the large intestines, they
compete for food and space. To do so, they
attach themselves to the intestinal wall. A body
with a flourishing colony of bifidobacteria has
little room and few nutrients to spare for the
harmful bacteria that may try to invade.
Bifidobacteria are also excellent producers of
acids that reduce pH. In this way, they prevent
illness-causing bacteria that prefer an alkaline
Bifidobacteria also has an important role in
cancer prevention. Nitrates enter the body in
food and water. Some types of harmful bacteria
can change nitrates into nitrites, a
cancer-causing substance. Bifidobacteria reduce
the existence of these harmful bacteria and
their ability to feed. When these bad bacteria
have no place to attach themselves and no food,
they simply continue through the digestive tract
and pass out of the body.
Bifidobacteria are anaerobic, meaning they do
not need oxygen to survive. Many forms of
harmful bacteria do require oxygen. Because the
bifidobacteria produce an environment that is
acidic and lacking oxygen, these harmful
bacteria are unable to survive passage through
In addition to these vital functions,
bifidobacteria produce important B-complex
vitamins. They also contribute to successful
dietary management of some liver conditions.
The specific strain Bifidobacterium animalis is
one of over thirty strains of bifidobacteria,
which is one of the most common groups of
bacteria found in the intestines of humans and
other animals. Bifidobacteria animalis
encompasses two types which were once thought to
be completely separate strains. Bifidobacterium
animalis and Bificobacterium lactis are so
similar at the subspecies level that they are
now denoted as Bifidobacterium animalis subsp.
animalis and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp.
Yogurt giant Dannon used Bifidobacterium
animalis in their Activia brand of yogurt. Not
only do they use it, but they market Activia as
yogurt with a unique probiotic
culture that helps naturally
regulate the digestive system. Studies
conducted by Dannon have shown that
Bifidobacterium animalis survives the trip
through the digestive tract and significantly
reduces colonic transit time.
In 2005, a related study by scientist Chr.
Hansen demonstrated positive effects when using
probiotics, including Bifidobacteria animalis,
in dealing with intestinal inflammation and
harmful bacteria. In this study, a high
percentage of those treated with Bifidobacteria
animalis showed a reduction in bowel frequency,
a reduction in liquid stools per week, and an
increase in solid stools per week. The study
concluded that probiotic treatment may
potentially influence the disease course of
collagenous colitis, an inflammatory condition
of the colon that causes chronic diarrhea.
In a different type of study, Italian scientists
investigated the effects of Bifidobacterium
animalis in rats with an induced zinc
deficiency. Though zinc deficiency caused
ulcerations, edema, inflammatory cell
infiltration, and dilation of blood vessels, the
mucosa of the rats which received
Bifidobacterium animalis was well-preserved. In
addition, most of the symptoms in the treated
rats normalized. A high concentration of
Bifidobacterium animalis was present in
rats waste, meaning that it survived and
even thrived in spite of the zinc deficiency.
This suggests that treatment with Bifidobacterium animalis can help protect the
intestines from zinc deficiency.
Another exciting study, this one conducted in
Japan in 2006, suggested that an effective
Bifidobacterium animalis oral vaccination could
be used to prevent types of Salmonella.
The affects of Bifidobacterium animalis are
still undergoing study, but this helpful
bacteria seems to have multiple benefits that
help humans and animals maintain a healthy
Masco, L. et al. (2004) International Journal of
Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.
Polyphasic Taxonomic Analysis of Bifidobacterium
animalis and Bifidobacterium
Mengheri, Elena, et al. (1999). The Journal of
Nutrition. Bifidobacterium animalis Protects
Intestine from Damage Induced by Zinc Deficiency
Shirakawa, Toshiro, et al. (2006). Molecular
Therapy. Genetically Engineered
Bifidobacterium animalis Expressing Salmonella
flagellan Gene for the Mucosal
Immunization in Mouse Model.
Trenev, Natasha. Probiotics: Nature's
Internal Healers. Garden City Park, New York:
Publishing Group, 1998.
Wildt M.D., Signe et al. (2005). Wiley
Interscience. Probiotic Treatment of Collagenous
complete description of probiotics, along with
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